Chinese Gall (Rhus chinensis)

R. javanica. non L. R. osbeckii. R. semialata.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Chinese Gall
Rhus chinensis

The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant[169].

A blue dye is obtained from insect galls on the plant[61], it can also be used as an ink[171]. The galls are formed as a result of damage by the greenfly, Aphis chinensis[223]. The galls contain up to 77% tannin[223]. The reports do not say if the galls are harvested before or after the insect has left the gall.

An oil is extracted from the seeds[4, 146]. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke[4].

The wood is soft and is not used[158].

  • Medicinal Use

    The leaves and the roots are depurative[147]. They stimulate blood circulation[147]. A decoction is used in the treatment of haemoptysis, inflammations, laryngitis, snakebite, stomach-ache and traumatic fractures[147, 218].

    The stem bark is astringent and anthelmintic[218].

    The fruit is used in the treatment of colic[240].

    The seed is used in the treatment of coughs, dysentery, fever, jaundice, malaria and rheumatism[218].

    The root bark is cholagogue[218].

    Galls on the plant are rich in tannin[279]. They are used internally for their astringent and styptic properties to treat conditions such as diarrhoea and haemorrhage[218, 279]. They are a frequent ingredient in polyherbal prescriptions for diabetes mellitus[218].

    An excrescence produced on the leaf by an insect Melaphis chinensis or M. paitan (this report probably refers to the galls produced by the plant in response to the insect[K]) is antiseptic, astringent and haemostatic[176]. It s used in the treatment of persistent cough with blood, chronic diarrhoea, spontaneous sweating, night sweats, bloody stool, urorrhoea and bloody sputum. It is used applied externally to burns, bleeding due to traumatic injuries, haemorrhoids and ulcers in the mouth[176].

    Some caution is advised in the use of the leaves and stems of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity.

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – cooked[2, 146, 158, 183]. An acid flavour[2]. It is also used medicinally[2, 158]. The fruit can be used as a salt or a rennet substitute[105, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in 'Cultivation Details'.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 – 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors[200]. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame[200]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[200]. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage[78, 200]. Suckers in late autumn to winter[200].
Succeeds in a well-drained fertile soil in full sun[11, 200]. A very ornamental plant[11], it is not fully hardy in all parts of Britain and needs a hot summer in order to fully ripen its wood, suffering winter damage to late growth if the temperature falls below about -7¡c[200]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. The plants are also susceptible to coral spot fungus and any winter damage will exacerbate the situation[11]. Plants have brittle branches and these can be broken off in strong winds[200]. Many of the species in this genus are highly toxic and can also cause severe irritation to the skin of some people, whilst other species such as this one are not poisonous. It is relatively simple to distinguish which is which, the poisonous species have axillary panicles and smooth fruits whilst non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs[1, 4]. The toxic species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, by some botanists[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
E. Asia – China, Japan.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.